May 2020 – Especially now, during the Corona pandemic, it is becoming clear that the courage and optimism inherent in art can flow into the whole of society. Unfortunately, however, only a fraction of citizens have made use of this to date. Many people, especially younger ones, have no access to culture. This was the goal of the ten-month art project “Studio 15/25” in Flensburg, which received substantial support from the Art Foundation of Hamburg Commercial Bank in 2019.
Create artworks together
It all started with a major project and a tricky question: “Would it be possible to attract that most difficult of target groups for museums, namely teenagers and young adults between 15 and 25 years of age, as museum visitors?” Dr. Michael Fuhr, director of the Museumsberg Flensburg, provides the answer after last year's ten-month project without hesitation: “Yes. We succeeded in shaking an image that had hitherto been lost and reconciling what is regarded in professional circles as art’s lost generation.” Dr. Nicolas Blanchard, Chief Clients and Products Officer on the Executive Board of Hamburg Commercial Bank and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Art Foundation, also considers the innovative art project a complete success: “This is not only shown by the positive statements made by the young people - by their own accounts 97 percent of the participants found the workshops ‘super’. Just under half of those surveyed saw the Flensburg museum from the inside for the first time ever, as a result of their artistic endeavors.” The HCOB Art Foundation for Schleswig-Holstein supported the “Studio 15/25” project with a high five-digit Euro amount.
Art and culture are in abundance in Germany - but they remain limited to a relatively small portion of the population. According to estimates by scientists, high-culture events, which include art exhibitions, are only regularly visited by a maximum of ten percent of Germans. However, this figure seldom includes teenagers and young adults aged between 15 and 25 years. Fuhr and his team from the Museumsberg Flensburg wanted to change this and, with significant financial support from the Art Foundation, set up the “Studio 15/25” project. Based on research and best-practice examples from museums in Mexico and France, an attempt was made to “offer young people something special that they cannot get in the digital world: contact with artists and the opportunity to become artistically active themselves and at the same time exhibit their works in a museum,” says Fuhr.
The positive outcome is encouraging - for the organizers themselves, but also for other German museums, who might use the experience gleaned in Flensburg as inspiration for successful cooperation and for developing their own formats for the young target group.
In a total of ten workshops, each of which was jointly led by local artists and professional art agents, the young people transformed their initially timid interest in art into genuine passion over the course of the project. Two publicly accessible rooms in the Hans Christiansen House on the Museumsberg served as studios and exhibition spaces for the entire ten months.
The project’s basic attitude has been fundamental to its success. Hence, art is not a finished project that should be studied and uncritically consumed, as in long-outmoded classroom-based teaching. Rather, art and one's own preoccupation with art involves a learning process that wins over potential budding artists for future activities. Getting involved, taking part, actively participating - that is the actual idea behind art and especially behind the “Studio 15/25” project. “Creating works of their own and developing individual means of expression in interaction with the artist and the group, the workshop participants had a tangible influence on the growing exhibition in the project rooms. By presenting artworks directly alongside their own, the participants' results were raised to the same level as the artworks,” says museum director Fuhr. A further aim of the project was to teach the teenagers and young adults how to appreciate art through active artistic analysis of original works. They not only got to know different artists; they were also able to ask them questions and create something together.
The first of ten weekend workshops was all about the theme “City.Space.Time”. Under the expert guidance of the Kiel architect Simon Kühl, the aim was to fill the completely empty studio and exhibition rooms with life and color. Just two scaffolds were erected to create a sense of space. The result: a colorful “feel-good room” in the museum, which offered visitors the opportunity to lie down, listen to music or - as the young people put it - simply “chill out”. Considerable courage and hands-on work were also required for another workshop: Painting over old has-beens The kind of landscape paintings you’d find on a flea market were spruced up by the teenagers and young adults with smart artistic extras or using collage techniques to transform them into modern eye-catchers. The “Don't waste your time - treat your waste” project was all about repurposing supposed packaging waste. To this end, figures were first formed out of chicken wire, and then covered with previously collected plastic, metal and paper waste. The “Self-portrait instead of selfie” project took an even closer look at the reality of young people’s lives: the participants developed ideas for a group photo, but explored the visual language and different perspectives and possibilities of interpretation much more than they would in their daily use of smartphones - ultimately this led to them questioning the excessive use of selfies.